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      08-17-2010, 01:41 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by 335diesel View Post
NFS - how long did it take you to find that?!
Less than one minute

Originally Posted by xenon View Post
Actually, I think it's correct as it is. "A number" is a singular thing (one number), no matter how many that number might actually be - therefore you can say:

"In most colleges there is also a number of staff who are particularly concerned..."


"In most colleges there are also staff who are particularly concerned..."

the latter implying more than one, i.e. some.

It is one of those semantics that is open to interpretation...

ANYWAY,, back to topic.......
In this context 'a number' could mean the following:

1. A specific, but undefined integer
2. A quantity (similar to 'some' or 'several')

The first meaning is possible, but rather odd in context of the rest of the paragraph. The second meaning is more appropriate.

For the second meaning 'a number' must always be plural, so 'are' is correct. If 'a number' is taken to mean a specific integer it is possible to support your argument to a certain extent. However, if the integer is greater than one (and given the context that is almost certainly the case), I would argue that it is also plural. You can demonstrate this by replacing 'a number' with any integer in the sentence, for example:

"In most colleges there are also eleven staff who are particularly concerned..."

In this situation it is clear that the meaning remains plural and that 'are' is correct. This position is reinforced by the word 'staff' which is quite inappropriate as a description of a single person.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the sentence construction is further flawed as it mistakenly states that all of the graduate students are available for consultation, rather than the staff.

All of which amply demonstrates that the English language is so fantastically complex that it is impossible to get it right all of the time. Which is why I rarely resort to pedantry. However, from a legal perspective I do find it incredibly interesting that the meaning of a simple sentence such as this can be so easily and unintentionally distorted.